|Society for Popular Astronomy
|Memory Lane: to the Moon with Apollo 8
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|Author:||brian livesey [ Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:44 am ]|
|Post subject:||Memory Lane: to the Moon with Apollo 8|
Did anyone else listen to the weekend Radio 4 programme about the Apollo 8 story, narrated by Helen Sharman, who spent some time on the Mir Space Station? This was an interesting radio hour, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the flight.
Firstly, one commentator described the Saturn rocket as being rushed and shoddily built, a product of poor workmanship. Mike Collins, who piloted the command module for Apollo 11, said that the Apollo 8 flight was more significant than the actual Moon landing.
Collins pointed out that many of the operations that had to be carried out on the flight were first-timers, and that there was so much that could have gone wrong.
A particularly dangerous moment was insertion into lunar orbit. The spacecraft could have overshot the Moon, sending the astronauts into deep space with no prospect of survival. Alternatively, the crew could have crashed onto the lunar surface. Descending to the 60 miles orbital distance above the Moon was, on the lunar scale, equivalent to occupying a space the thickness of a piece of paper.
The Apollo capsule's descent into to the sea carried its own risks. It was a hard landing on water, and there was the prospect of water entering the capsule and sending it to the bottom with the crew still onboard.
Helen Sharman said she preferred the Soyuz retro-rocket landing on the Steppe. Despite receiving a hard bump on touchdown, it was less than the astronauts experienced on contact with the water, which resists compression.
As a postscript, it was Apollo 8 astronaut, William Sanders, who took the iconic "Earthrise" photo of a gibbous Earth rising over the lunar limb, as the spacecraft completed a circumnavigation of the Moon. "Wow!" was the response from the crew. The beauty of our home planet contrasted sharply with the bleak, sandblasted, lunar terrain:
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